Tears welled up in Maya’s eyes. Sadness overcame her. Then, frustration. Then, anger. Why had her mom revoked her access to social media?
For Maya, social media was her way to connect with friends and relatives. For her mom, social media was a distraction. So, was taking away access to social media really fair and justified?
Social media is a place on the internet to share and create content. Sure, it can be unhealthy and untrue at times, but many forget that it has helped numerous minority-led businesses and helped break stereotypes.
Instagram is one of the most popular social media applications online where photos and videos are shared. Unfortunately, sometimes, users on the app have targeted racist content towards the South Asian community. For example, a trend on Reels (a part of Instagram) and TikTok mocked a classical Indian song. In the trend known as the “Aaaaaa” trend, users’ faces were morphed into a wave as the singer trilled their voice. Those who took part in this trend often laughed at the music and face, deeply offending many viewers on the platforms.
Social media has encouraged criticism towards the South Asian community. For instance, many people have criticized the Indian government for its handling of COVID-19. However, this accompanied misinformation, causing political unrest in India. As a response to the hate on social media, in April and May of 2021, the Indian government ordered over 100 posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to be removed. One of the tweets removed was written by Pawan Khera, a speaker from The Indian National Congress. He claimed that the ruling party in India known as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) does not admit that a large religious celebration, as well as political rallies, counted towards the surge of COVID-19.
Nevertheless, social media’s positive space for South Asians outweighs the negatives. Social media has fostered the creation of many communities. South Asian first-generation immigrants may feel distanced from their culture and family, but Tiktok, Instagram, and more have made them feel connected. Niharika G., a mom with teenage children, says that social media “[is] a convenient way to keep in touch.”
Social media has created a platform for South Asian businesses, especially those at home, to thrive. Naresh T., a tech executive in Silicon Valley, comments that social media “has democratized and leveled the playing field for the less fortunate.”
Jaya A., a finance professional in her 40s, also states that social media “connects people [and] helps businesses.”
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, creators can share and advertise their products to a variety of people. Many South Asians have been selling and sharing traditional clothing, food, and items. For instance, Instagram users have access to beautiful jewelry designs, contemporary saris, and delicious cultural food recipes.
Most importantly, social media enables creators to break stereotypes. Many Desis use social media to spread positive messages and prove stereotypes wrong. The Indian Feminist, an Instagram account run by 2 Punjabi girls with over 320,000 followers, spreads positive messages on sexism and South Asian culture. Other Desi accounts have also opened up a safe space to discuss their sexuality. India, which only ruled consensual homosexual activities legal in 2018, has not been very welcoming to those in the LGBTQ+ community. Anwesh Sahoo is a blogger, dancer, model, and artist who became the youngest man to win Mr. Gay World India 2016. He expresses his pride throughout his Instagram page, which has accumulated over 6,000 followers. Durga Gawde is a drag performer who came out as transgender on Instagram. They expressed their struggles with coming out to their Indian family.
While social media does have its issues, it also has made it possible for Desis to feel represented and involved. South Asians have the ability to create and grow businesses, build communities, and, most importantly, share their stories!
Kaashvi Mittal is an 8th-grade student at Stratford Middle School. Her interests include art, speech and debate, and writing.